"Storm of the Century:" Facts about Superstorm '93

Superstorm 93 c.png
Superstorm 93 c.png

This week marks the 25th anniversary of a weather event that anyone who lived through it in the NewsChannel 9 viewing area will never forget: The so-called "Superstorm of '93."

The storm has also been called "the Storm of the Century" -- and for good reason.

The blizzard of March 1993 was the most costly winter storm in the U.S. since 1980 when record keeping began, maybe ever, at $9.6 billion. That is almost double the cost of the next most expensive winter storm, the Southeast Ice Storm of 1994.

Share your Superstorm '93 photos and videos here!

A May, 1993 report by a scientist working for the National Climactic Data Center called "The Big One! A Review of the March 12-14, 1993 “Storm of the Century" provided more facts about the storm.

The blizzard was deadly. 45 people died in Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama:

  • Tennessee = 14
  • Georgia = 15
  • Alabama = 16

For the whole storm, which stretched from Florida to Maine, 270 people died (in the U.S.). This does not include 48 people missing at sea in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic. 44 deaths in Florida (included in the 270) were attributed to the estimated 15 tornados spun off by the storm.

And did it ever snow! Check out these local snowfall totals.

  • 56 inches on Mount LeConte, TN
  • 50 inches on Mount Mitchell, NC (14-foot drifts)
  • 24 inches in Mountain City, GA
  • 20 inches in Chattanooga, TN
  • 19 inches in Asheville, NC
  • 17 inches near Birmingham, AL (6-foot drifts)
  • 4 inches in Atlanta, GA

The report says “Thousands of people were isolated by record snowfalls, especially in the Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia mountains. Over 200 hikers were rescued from the North Carolina and Tennessee mountains. Curfews were enforced in many counties and cities as 'states of emergency' were declared. The National Guard was deployed in many areas to protect lives and property. Generally, all interstate highways from Atlanta northward were closed.”

“For the first time, every major airport on the east coast was closed at one time or another by the storm. The Asheville, NC airport was closed for 3 days. Snowfall rates of 2-3 inches per hour were common during the height of the storm.”

“Hundreds of roof collapses occurred due to the weight of the heavy wet snow. Over 3 million customers were without electrical power at one time due to fallen trees and high winds.”

Flat Top Mountain, NC – a few miles northeast of Bristol, TN – recorded wind speed of 101 mph, the equivalent of a Category 2 hurricane.

It wasn’t just snowy & windy – it got cold. Here are a few of the record low temperatures for the period:

  • -10 degrees on Mount LeConte, TN (Smokies)
  • -4 degrees in Waynesville, NC
  • 2 degrees in Asheville, NC and Birmingham, AL
  • 6 degrees in Knoxville, TN
  • 11 degrees in Chattanooga
  • 18 degrees in Columbia, SC and Atlanta, GA
  • 25 degrees in Savannah, GA

Despite all the problems, NewsChannel 9 covered Superstorm '93 for its viewers. Watch a compilation below:

Read David Glenn's memories of the Superstorm here.

Al Ceren was a registered nurse at Erlanger, and shared with us a dramatic account of saving the life of a patient that day. Ceren and other EMS workers who finally reached the stranded patient were later honored in Mary Ellen Locher's "Friday's Hero" segment. Read his account below:

"I remember the Blizzard of ’93 quite well. It ranks high in my memories along with the Jersey Pike Bulk Tank fires of ’72 where I was the only one of 4 burned to survive.

In ’93 I was a RN at Erlanger, a Lt in the USNR, and a Tri-Community FD Capt over the Apison FD Station.

The morning after the blizzard the FD was in emergency mode. Roads were essentially unpassable for fire apparatus and all stations were told that they were essentially on their own.

I received a call that morning on my brick style cell phone for an elderly female in respiratory distress on Prospect Church Rd.

It took awhile to clear away the fallen limbs and wires around my home and make my way to the Apison TCFD station in my aging Jeep Cherokee, but I got there, picked up our Med bag and proceeded over undriven snow piled roads to Prospect Church Rd.

I had almost made it to the address when my Jeep found the ditch and I couldn’t proceed in the vehicle, so I grabbed the med bag and slogged my way to the house.

When I got there I was nearly exhausted and in need of warmth but the house was cold and without power and the patient was approaching respiratory failure.

Hamilton County dispatched 3 or 4 ambulances to the scene, but none ever made it.

Over the next ensuing 8+ hrs I did everything possible to keep the patient alive, metering out oxygen from my small tank, stimulating her and intermittently turning on my cell to talk to Dispatch to preserve my dwindling battery.

In late afternoon things were looking grim. I was almost out of oxygen and cell phone battery power. Dispatch told me that the Paramedics were on the way on foot after abandoning their ambulance.

I ran out of oxygen and the patient went into cardiac arrest just as the exhausted Paramedics slogged their way into the house.

They were able to revive her and another EMS person was able to get their Toyota SUV to the address to move the patient to where EMS could transport her via ambulance.

She was transported to East Ridge Hospital and survived.

Shortly thereafter Mary Ellen Locher met the Paramedics and myself at the hospital for the now defunct Friday’s Heroes(?) piece where the patient gave us “I Survived The Blizzard Of ‘93” T-shirts.

Later that year during EMS Week it was recognized as Medical Call Of The Year.

I don’t remember the Paramedics names but I do know I was very happy to see them show up when they did.

Many people were altruistic in their actions during the blizzard. This is just where we were guided to serve and my only interaction with MEL whose memory and actions continue to benefit our community.

In memory,

Al Ceren"